• May 22, 2024
  • Last Update May 22, 2024 11:20 AM
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Kenya Still Struggles to Achieve Recommended Forest Cover Level

Kenya Still Struggles to Achieve Recommended Forest Cover Level

Migori,

Wednesday May 1, 2024

KNA by George Agimba

It is the government policy to register beyond ten percent forest cover score card to help protect the environment well.

However, this dream has never been realised for many years due to the ongoing vicious destruction of existing forests and lack of impetus to plant more trees by the citizens.

Experts always enumerate many factors that impact negatively on forests in the country, one of which is; wanton harvesting of trees to make charcoal and timber.

Yet the same experts have also delved deeply in educating Kenyans on how to protect forest and water towers.

Very few people can still remember the unique casket in which the body of Prof Wangari Maathai was stuffed before cremation at Kariokor crematorium in the year 2011.

The casket presented a good lesson to Kenyans that they should not solely rely on coffins made out of timber to bury their loved ones.

It also sent rays of hope to the citizenry that there are many ways that can be exploited to help protect forest cover in the country.

Kenya has gone on record in Africa, if not world-wide, that the love for replenishing diminishing forest cover is still minimal and wanting from her population.

The use of the most hated water hyacinth that usually mar Lake Victoria and, bamboo to weave the marvelous reed coffin for sending Prof Maathai to her final resting place then was a score for Kenya towards discovering the numerous ways of saving trees in the country.

Although the nation has one of the best forest policy that any country can boast of, the tragedy is that indiscriminate destruction of trees and vegetation is on the rise day in day out.

The detriment therefore has been the destruction of water sources, among them the Mau water towers, leading to poor weather pattern that has occasioned worst food shortages in the country and to extent, flooding.

The quest for saving the environment through planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation has been the dream of many true environmentalist, among them the former Managing Director (MD) of Sony Sugar Company, Mr Paul Odola.

During his stint at the factory based in Awendo sugar belt, Migori County, Odola exploited various ways of protecting the environment, some of which were unknown to the local people.

One of them was the use of bagasse produced in hundreds of tons at the factory to make briquettes that are used as ‘Jiko fuel’ to replace charcoal in most rural kitchens.

Odola committed the Company to pursuing an environmental protection agenda with gusto and had initiated a forestation programme worth over Sh20 million annually to increase forest cover.

Apart from being used as energy for cooking food in homes, briquettes are also able to fire tobacco kilns and can drastically reduce the use of firewood in drying tobacco leafs in Kenya.

Experts believe that activities of producing and drying tobacco crop have greatly led to destruction of forests and water towers in Migori and some other parts of Kenya.

“We have been battling with a technology to avail cheap and environmentally friendly alternative energy in the market to replace charcoal and firewood and that is; the introduction of briquette in our kitchens,” said Prof Otieno Awino.

He says they have been in talks with tobacco buying companies in Migori and other regions in the country to embrace the manufacturing of briquettes to help their farmers move away from the use of firewood to process their tobacco leafs in the barns.

Tobacco farming, which has been going on for more than three decades now in Migori, Kuria, Uriri and Rongo districts, has been identified as the worst in forest cover destruction as farmers use tones of logs to treat their crop.

It has also been blamed for intoxicating rivers with dangerous chemicals used to protect tobacco crops from diseases right from nursery stage to the last stage in the kilns.

The use of briquette, which Prof Awino believes would provide the required energy to dry up tobacco crop, would trigger the forest growth in the region as farmers would automatically abandon indiscriminate felling of trees to cure their crop.

Like the hyacinth and bamboo in regard to coffins, the briquettes will replace the use of charcoal which requires tones of wood logs to prepare burn.

Lack of enough forest cover in Migori owing to indiscriminate harvesting of trees and non-replacement of felled logs has been blamed for the fast diminishing food production by local residents, leading to adverse food shortages in the area.

The erratic rains combined with reduced land fertility in the region is as a result of poor environmental protection, and Prof Awino says it is only through concerted efforts in tree planting that the situation would be arrested.

“The National government, the County government and the private sector must now collaborate to fast-track the generation of more tree seedlings that would be distributed to farmers, schools and individual institutions at a highly subsidised price to encourage people to love planting trees,” he added.

Courtesy; KNA

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